I wanted to start a thread with what I came up with for a wireless solution for my Airstream. Many of you have gone with the Wi-Fi ranger (I almost did!) but I wanted to talk with you about the direction I went.
Radiolabs is new to me and after doing some research; I think they may have a better solution, at least for me.
To start, I needed to identify how I wanted to use the system. One requirement was the strongest possible system that could pull in Wi-Fi signals from as far away as possible. That meant that the antenna might have to be larger than what most owners would subject the roof of their Airstreams to. The weight of the antenna was a factor, as I did not want to damage the roof in any way or to install a tall antenna that gradually pulled away or bent the roof from the additional leverage.
I also wanted a repeater that could act as my router for a Wi-Fi network inside the trailer. I want to use a Google Chromecast device on each TV so I can broadcast movies or YouTube. The Chromecast will not operate if you do not have a network router setup in your trailer. It needs to pick up an IP address from the router to connect to the Internet on it’s own. Those familiar with Chromecast know that once you’ve sent the movie to the Chromecast, it’s on its own. It starts streaming from the Internet and not from your device (phone, CPU, etc.).
Another requirement is that I did not want to deal with all the wires and power cords within the trailer if possible. That would require routing the device into one of the outside storage areas.
I wanted to get the antenna as high in the air as practical. That said, I was willing to give up a permanent solution that is installed on the roof. It means that my system would be setup at the campsite.
The Wi-Fi Ranger (elite) has a 13” antenna that sports a router built right into the base of the antenna. Neat solution! You can hook the 12v
power to it and it acts as a wireless router and gives you access in and around the trailer. The software that comes built in the unit allows you to locate and access the different Wi-Fi location just like your router at home. It mounts on the roof as in my case, as I do not have the TV antenna that cranks up. That means I would have to attach to the refrigerator vent (top) and route behind the refrigerator. There is 12v
and 120v behind the refrigerator accessible through the vent outside. This would be adequate, but not quite as powerful as other solution.
There is a company that has been doing wireless solutions for 14 years. Radiolabs has quite a few product and solutions for both RV and Marine use. I opted for the more robust marine system.
You can call Radiolabs and they will answer. They were very helpful in explaining the pros and cons of their product. The system I chose was the USB Wifi repeater along with an incredibly powerful 63” marine antenna called the “XL”. The XL requires power but through the 15’ USB came that is permanently sealed as it goes into the unit. The USB gets routed through to the Repeater and just plugs in. The repeater (router) can use 120v or 12v
to power it. Since my antenna was going to be mounted to a pole, I am opting to route the USB cable into the rear refrigerator outside access where I can pick up the 120v or 12v. There is actually an AC plug mounted in there!
To provide the height I wanted for the antenna, I’ve came up with an antenna extension that breaks down into two parts. It is made up of two 5.5’ long stainless steel tubes 1” in diameter that are coupled together with parts I found from Shakespeare antenna manufacturer. A Shakespeare 4006 female ferrule is basically a coupler between the tubes. On each end of the tubes I added a Shakespeare 4705 Pipe Adapter that screws into the ferrule. I also added another pipe adapter to the very top tube so the Radiolabs antenna can screw into that. The threads of the Shakespeare parts are all marine antenna 14 pitch. So I have an antenna that breaks down into 3 parts and is 16 feet tall.
The 5.5 foot stainless tubes should look attractive next to the trailer (chrome shiny : ) ) and each being 5.5 feet long, will fit in the rear bumper. The antenna will also fit in there.
I have the rear awning on my trailer and I plan on setting up the antenna at the rear point of the awning using the awning arm for support. A one-inch wide Velcro strip should secure it and the bottom of the extension will get some kind of “mount” that can be staked to the ground or weighted to stop from slippage. A steel rod pounded into the ground would allow for the tube to slip over it. If on a concrete pad, I will have to see what is available.
The USB cord coming from the antenna will go down the antenna and under the trailer on possible hooks and fed to the refrigerator outside vent door. I already owned a USB powered extension (15') that will be added to the length of the USB coming out of the antenna. Be careful not to exceed 32'. (Radiolab's sells their extension for $19). On the sidewall, I will mount the repeater with Velcro. It is a ½ watt wireless that should have no problem reaching the interior of the trailer. We will see. If it does not work well due to aluminum shielding of the coach, the repeater has an antenna port that can be routed to the interior or attached to the refrigerator cabinet sidewall.
Well, that’s the plan anyway. I will post all of the parts I use with links and pictures when I receive everything. This all started when we took our first trip in the airstream last week to Hocking hills Ohio State park. We had no cell service (ATT) and no Internet.
Yea, I survived, but it wasn’t easy!
Question: Any ideas for grounding or lightening protection? I'm not sure lightening would direct itself down the antenna and into the ground before arching onto the trailer. Wow! Thoughts on this?
Radiolabs XL Antenna:
iBoats / Shakespeare 4705 pipe adapter
Amazon / Shakespear 4006 double ferrule
Stainless round tube
1" OD X .065" wall X .870" ID
custom sized to 5.5 feet